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The Treasure in the Lake

Episode 24 of the sixth series of the Goon Show was broadcast on 28 February 1956. The listing is in the significantly abridged broadsheet version of the Radio Times here, as the magazine’s printers were on strike.

BBC musicians, however, were no longer on strike thanks to a pay agreement reached soon after the previous Goon Show episode was broadcast. The orchestra was back, although without regular musical director Angela Morley (then known as Wally Stott), so the conductor was Bruce Campbell.

I’ve not been able to find out much at all about Mr Campbell. The website Second Hand Songs has references to Bruce Campbell & His Orchestra, identifying him as a “Canadian-born composer, arranger and conductor” who also played trombone in 1930s dance bands once he had arrived in the UK. I’ve no way of verifying whether it is the same person, however, so if anyone else can do any better please get in touch via your nearest electric postman.

He did get a line in this show – of sorts.

Secombe: Kindly allow me to announce The Highly Esteemed - [Orchestra: Brief ‘ta-da’] Secombe: - Goon Show. You came in too quick there, Mister Conductor. Close your eyes. [FX: Gunshot] Bruce Campbell (off mic): Aaaagh!

‘The Treasure in the Lake’ is also commonly listed as ‘The Treasure in Loch Lomond’, and indeed that is how it is announced by Peter Sellers in his daftest Scottish accent. I am sticking with the former as it is what Roger Wilmut uses in his Goonography, and he has put in infinitely more work towards accuracy than I have.

Secombe: Don't you dare raise your Radio Times to me! One false move and I'll horse-whip you with this. Eccles: Put me down!

While most of the action takes place north of the border, it begins in London with Neddie Seagoon and Willium singing in the street and on the lookout for coppers. And silver.

This bit is notable for the wonderful sequence of the pair trying to escape from the police by hiding various parts of the room they are in. A window goes under Willium’s wig (cue FX: glass shattering), the walls are folded up, the floor is stuffed into a sack, and the door is moved to the ceiling where their pursuer can’t reach it. A piece of classic Goon logic in action.

It’s all to no avail though – but fortunately for Ned his pursuer is a lawyer, Norris Toof (Sellers), informing him that he is air to £10,000 (approximately £238,000 in today’s money, at the time of writing, subject to political imbecility).

Norris Toof: One point, sir, before you do: you must prove to me that you are of Scottish blood. Seagoon: Simple. Otch-aye mon, it's a warm black munnick nach un it, Robert the Bruce, Partick Thistle 3, Celtic Rangers nil. P.S. down with England, mon, hoots. Toof: Proof positive, sir, proof positive. Seagoon: Needle nardle McNoo.

With profuse apologies to my Scottish partner. It’s only going to get worse from here.

Seagoon heads for Scotland while singing ‘The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond’ to meet his uncle, Laird McGool, who has named him as his heir. This is a traditional Scottish song now popular among the country's rugby and football fans, and is commonly cited as an unofficial national anthem.

Bonnie Loch Lomond.

McGool is voiced by Peter Sellers and his lines are accompanied by bagpipe music in the background, timed perfectly to play only when he is speaking. It’s a gag that was introduced (according to fellow Goonatic Sean Gaffney) in ‘The Great Tuscan Salami Scandal’, and became a regular recurring joke.

There is treasure waiting our hero – when his uncle dies. In an attempt to speed the process up he opens the window to set off the Laird’s weak chest. Naughty Neddie! He is chased away by the Laird’s dog – played by a familiar character.

McGool: Rover, see 'im off, boy, go on. Eccles: OK, bow wow wow wow wow wow, bow wow wow wow! Seagoon: Shut up, you McIdiot, you're not a dog. Eccles: Sshh, don't give me away! All found and free collar. Bow wow wow wow wow. Seagoon: I'm going, I'm going, but you haven't heard the last of me. I'm on Housewives’ Choice tomorrow. McGool: You're always on Housewives’ Choice, get out!

Housewives’ Choice was a long-running music programme that more than once featured Harry Secombe’s singles. It was spoofed in ‘The Great Tuscan Salami Scandal’ by Secombe himself, in lieu of Ray Ellington, and John Snagge threatened to “ban your record on Housewives’ Choice” in ‘The Greenslade Story’.

Eccles exits to continue his job of bringing up treasure from a sunken Spanish galleon, San Itary (geddit?), at the bottom of the loch.

The other side of Max Geldray, we find Grytpype-Thynne and Moriarty fishing on a budget.

Moriarty: Sapristi freezing blue McSporrans! Three days we've stood waist-deep in this ice-bound Loch Lomond. What's the idea, eh? Grytpype: Don't you like fishing, Moriarty? Moriarty: Fishing? We haven't any rods! How do you catch fish like this? Grytpype: Well they've got to die sometime.

From a distance they spy Eccles retrieving the treasure, and plot their own way to steal it. Rather than swim down, they’ll drain the loch. Enter, a convenient idiot, in the shape of Neddie.

The dastardly duo convince Neddie that the waters of the loch have life-preserving powers, and by drinking copious amounts of it he can be assured of outliving his uncle and claiming the treasure. He quickly goes from glasses to a hosepipe, and it begins to have an effect.

Grytpype: Good boy, drink as much as you can. That's it, it's all free. Moriarty: It's going down! Slowly, mark you, but it is going down. […] Seagoon: Hah, it's no good, I have to stop. Moriarty: What for? Seagoon: Can't you guess?

Neddie goes off for a loo break under cover of Ray Ellington, while Grytpype and Moriarty set about speeding up the draining of the loch by turning on all the taps at a nearby lodge. This causes problems for the landlord and landlady, Henry Crun and Minnie Bannister.

Crun: Min, have you got the monkey wrench? Bannister: I gave it back to the monkey. Crun: We don't wish to know that type joke, Min. Bannister: I got it from a very expensive Christmas cracker, buddy.

Seagoon arrives to help, but to no avail – the tap’s off, but it is still leaking and the water is flooding the bathroom.

Suddenly, something squeezes out of the pipe!

[FX: Squeezing, pop, splash] Bluebottle: Enter Bluebottle through pipe! [Audience cheers and applauds] Thank you, thank you little sausage makers, thank you. Returns to serious business of acting. Strikes Frank Sinatra, Man with Golden Arm pose. Thinks: 'ere, I like that bit where Kim Novak keeps him warm, heeheehee!

The film The Man with the Golden Arm was released in December 1955, and starred Sinatra and Novak alongside Eleanor Parker, who played Sinatra’s character’s wife.

The film was based on the 1949 novel of the same name by Nelson Agren, and the story is quite dark, ending in suicide (a different character in the book and the film).

(Robert Strauss appears in the film as he did in The Bridges of Toko-Ri, which Bluebottle referenced in ‘China Story’ in the fifth series of the Goon Show – also with a naughty aside. I need to get out more.)

Despite being hit repeatedly with a porcelain sink by Seagoon, he brings news of Major Bloodnok.

Bluebottle: I have got a message for you. Major Bloodnok says he wants you all to start building him a boat. Seagoon: Why? Bluebottle: He's drowning in the lake.

Seagoon decides to return the water to the loch by bucket, galloping to and from each water source on a horse.

Seagoon: I must do this alone. A horse and bucket, horse and bucket - Bluebottle and Bannister: They go together like a - Seagoon: Shut up!

This may be another naughty reference: a horse and carriage go together like love and marriage, so a horse and bucket must go together like love and never you mind madam. Just don't tell the censors.

Seagoon: Gid up, Dobbin, come on, Dobbin. Eccles: OK, neeeeeeiiiiigh! Seagoon: Eccles, you're not a horse, you're a dog. Eccles: I know, but I do impressions. Seagoon: Right, gid up there, come on, to the lake, Dobbin! Eccles: OK. [Clucks like a chicken.] No, that isn't a horse. Bow wow wow! No, that's a dog. [Makes car noises.] No, no, I'll get it, I'll get it...

Wallace Greenslade narrates as we switch scenes rapidly between Seagoon on horseback, Henry and Minnie trying to stop the tap running, Grytpype and Moriarty trying to keep the level of the loch falling, and the middle of the loch where Major Bloodnok is still drowning (his entire contribution for this episode is "aaaaah, help!").

We also take a couple of brief diversions to the steam baths in Edgware Road (Throat: Cor blimey!) and the Café Fred, where Grytpype and Moriarty are dancing while discussing the water level.

Greenslade: Meantime, back in - Bluebottle: What about me? [FX: Long explosion] Bluebottle: You rotten swine, you!

Back in the castle, Laird McGool and Eccles have finished retrieving the treasure – and just as the money at the centre of ‘The Mystery of the Marie Celeste’ kept changing, the value of the haul has magically doubled to £20,000.

Eccles: £20,000, that money must be worth a fortune. McGool: You know what it means to us both? Eccles: No. McGool: It means that I'm a rich man and you're a far better swimmer.

Wallace resumes his rapid-fire scene changing commentary, but is met with silence at each change. “Don’t some people get discouraged easily?” is the closest thing to a payoff we get.

It seems Spike has cut the script short in order to give a second airing to his musical masterpiece, as Adolphus Spriggs returns to perform ‘I’m Walking Backwards For Christmas’ again before the closing credits.

The lack of a punchy payoff became a bit of a running gag in later series, prompting Major Bloodnok to lament at the end of ‘Ned’s Atomic Dustbin’ (Series 9 Episode 10): “Where are the payoffs of yesteryear?”

Curiously enough, just a few years ago a woman found a gold ring on the shore of Loch Lomond that was later sold at auction. According to the Daily Record, it was expected to fetch £10,000... Quick, someone fetch me a hosepipe!


The Treasure in the Lake

Series 6 Episode 24

Broadcast: 28 February 1956

Written by: Spike Milligan

Producer: Pat Dixon

Loch Lomond image by Joe S via Pexels, film poster sourced from CineMasterpieces, and treasure image by David Bartus via Pexels.

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